Historic Facelift

A restored Old State House reopens with an old look–and new technology.

The two-year project to restore the
Old State House stayed true to

the building’s original appearance,
save some modern amenities.

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Delaware’s Old State House, the grand dame of Dover’s historic Green, got a little work done over the past two years. More than a nip and tuck, the restoration was a major undertaking both inside and out. And, revealed a little surprise: She’s been hedging about her age.

The $3.5 million restoration of the beloved Old State House, one of the oldest state houses in the country, has been met with appreciation by Delawareans, according to Beverly Laing, manager of historic sites for the State of Delaware. “The public was aware that it needed attention,” she says. Some people have even gone so far as to say, “Thank you for saving the building.”

Plans and appropriations began back in 2003. The Old State House officially closed its doors in December 2005. By painstakingly researching archival records, the State Department of Historical and Cultural Affairs has ensured that the restoration holds true to the historic building’s original appearance right down to the paint color. Research showed that official use of the Old State House began with a meeting of the Delaware House of Assembly in the fall of 1791, not its first full session in May of 1792, as was previously believed.

On the surface, the restoration was faithful to the Old State House’s 1791 look, down to the smallest of details, but hidden beneath now lies state-of-the-art technical capability. All rooms now have Internet access and streaming video technology. The old Levy Court Office, complete with a new flat screen television and sound system, has been converted into an orientation room for visitors.

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On December 7, 2007, Delaware Day, the Old State House was officially reopened with a ceremony that included the public and a host of Delaware dignitaries. “We replaced bricks and mortar, but we actually restored dignity and honor,” says Timothy A. Slavin, director of Historical and Cultural Affairs for the state. “It’s a place for all Delawareans.”

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